Episode 23: Matt Mullenweg – The Evolution of WordPress & Democratizing Publishing


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In today’s episode, Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress, CEO of Automattic, photographer, and world traveler, explains why he believes open-source is the only moral way for software to continue. Matt has witnessed the rapid advancement of open-source through his work with WordPress and has dedicated his life to democratizing publishing on the entire web. Although his lifelong mission is lofty to say the least, he maintains a balanced life with meditation, disconnected breaks, and travel. Listen in as Matt shares his opinion on culture, results, and taking control of your journey.

Time Stamped Show Notes

[01:30] –Introducing Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress, CEO of Automattic, photographer, and world traveler

[02:00] – He loved the idea of making websites; he started coding by contributing to his own blog

[02:30] – Matt’s early days

[02:40] – He volunteered for B2-Cafelog and when they stopped being developed he posted on his blog about wanting to continue

[03:00] – He set up the software for 5 or 6 of his friends from his performing arts high school and those were the first ever WordPress sites

[04:27] – The most exciting thing about the journey

[04:42] – When someone he admires uses WordPress, he feels proud; he loves the open-source volunteers he works with from all over the world

[06:30] – Matt’s views on open-source technology

[06:40] – Everyone uses it and improves it, which makes improvement so much faster than if it were proprietary

[07:30] – It’s important for the community to see and help improve how our technology works

[08:00] – The WordPress hierarchal structure

[08:10] – Things get approved; but if someone disagrees with his decision, people can still take ideas and go a different direction

[08:56] – There are about 300-500 code contributors per release; this doesn’t include all the other positions that go into making a release possible

[10:35] – Dealing with people who disagree with his decisions

[10:53] – He engages with the community to hear their concerns and get input; Twitter doesn’t lend itself well to effective communication with the community

[12:20] – Matt’s self-care routine

[12:55] – He meditates with the Calm app; his self-awareness has improved with meditation

[13:25] – He thinks music is the most underrated mood-changer; he has different music for different tasks

[13:48] – He’ll listen to the same song or album on repeat to get in the zone; deep house and DJ sets help him get energy and focus

[14:50] – He uses the net “Sleeping Dragon” sound

[15:18] – Matt’s Burning Man experience

[16:40] – How Matt disconnects

[16:46] – At least once a year he completely unplugs and goes somewhere where connecting is difficult

[17:10] – He takes micro-breaks throughout the week and avoids things building up while he’s on vacation by working a bit each day

[19:50] – Tips for others running young companies

[20:06] – Don’t try to innovate in too many ways at the same time

[20:30] – Focus on hiring, retention, and letting go; it’s important how you treat your employees

[21:05] – It’s respectful to let go of those who aren’t a good fit

[21:55] – How Matt trusts the people he brings on

[22:28] – In the early days, he enjoyed doing all the jobs; then, he could hire for those jobs or delegate

[22:40] – He still loves to code but doesn’t necessarily like the way the company codes now

[23:30] – The importance of culture

[23:40] – He believes culture is an overused word; just practice what you preach

[24:30] – Emphasize that the rules are an iteration; keep building and reexamine your assumptions

[24:50] – Results keep you honest; Uber and Google as an example

[25:45] – Matt’s future

[25:50] – The goal of his companies is to democratize publishing; they want the whole web on an open-source operating system

[26:13] – He plans on working on this for the rest of his life

[26:50] – Their philosophy and quality of software keeps WordPress popular

3 Key Points

  1. Open-source is critical for rapid worldwide innovation.
  2. Practice what you preach.
  3. Results keep you honest.



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